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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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Similar reasoning underlies many of the attempts made so far to relate either population growth or population density to political change. First of all, many of the attempts are based upon spurious correlations. Since the less developed countries are in the midst of a "demographic explosion," it is tempting but quite fallacious to assume that there is a relationship between high population growth rates and the political difficulties these countries are encountering. It would be easy to demonstrate that the unstable countries of the developing world have high growth rates. But we should also note that the few countries in the developing areas with comparatively low growth rates such as Angola, Gabon, Mozambique, Haiti, and Argentina, have no special record of stability and that some of the fastest growing countries have often been cited—if not now, then a few years ago—as among the comparatively more stable countries of their region: Malaya, Singapore, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, and Costa Rica. There is no evidence to suggest that population growth alone as an independent variable can explain instability, violence, aggressive behavior, and the rise of radical movements of the left or right.
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In the second place, many of the analysts fail to distinguish between those political effects which result from changes in the size, composition, or distribution of populations without the influence of socioeconomic factors, and those effects which only result from the conjunction of population changes and socioeconomic changes. For example, if one ethnic group in a society has a higher population growth rate than another, there may be a change in the distribution of power even if there are no accompanying economic changes. On the other hand, the political effects of a growth in the number of young people in the society may be quite different if the increase occurs at a time when the economy is expanding and jobs are readily available for young adults entering the labor force than if the increase occurs in the midst of a depression when there is widespread unemployment. Similarly, a rapid increase in population in a rural society may have one effect if it occurs at a time when industrialization is opening up new opportunities for employment and quite another effect if the expanded population remains in the countryside. In the latter case, a population increase may result in increased fragmentation of landholdings, an economic change often with very significant political consequences. Moreover, if sons have equal inheritance rights, there may be one set of effects, while the effects will be quite different if there is a system of primogeniture. In short, there may be few population changes which have uniform worldwide political effects. The analyst, therefore, must specify the intermediate variables with which demographic changes are associated.
Unfortunately, some of the attempts by demographers and economists to explain the political effects of population change, utilizing intermediate vari-